I recently got a tetanus shot. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It cost me $21. My last tetanus shot was about 20 years ago. We are supposed to get a tetanus shot every 10 years. Oops. I’ll get my tetanus shot every 10 years from now on.
So what exactly is tetanus?
Tetanus is a serious bacterial disease caused by a toxin that leads to stiffness of your jaw muscles and other muscles. Tetanus can cause severe muscle spasms, make breathing difficult and, ultimately, threaten your life. Spores of the tetanus bacteria, Clostridium tetani, usually are found in the soil, but can occur virtually anywhere. If deposited in a wound, the bacteria can produce a toxin that interferes with the nerves controlling your muscles.
Treatment for tetanus is available, but the process is lengthy and not uniformly effective. Tetanus may be fatal despite treatment. The best defense against tetanus is preventing it by getting a tetanus shot and by properly caring for wounds.
Signs and symptoms of tetanus may include:
- Spasms of your jaw, neck and other muscles. As the toxin spreads to nerves, your face and jaw muscles may be affected by strong spasms. Spasms can also affect muscles in your chest, abdomen and back.
- Stiffness of your jaw, neck and other muscles. This is why tetanus is commonly referred to as lockjaw. Spasms and stiffness of your jaw and neck may lead to difficulty swallowing. Stiffness can also affect your chest, abdominal and back muscles.
- Difficulty breathing. Severe spasms can affect respiratory muscles and make it difficult to breathe.
Other signs and symptoms can include:
- Muscular irritability
When to see a doctor
See your doctor to obtain a tetanus booster shot if you have a deep or dirty wound and you haven’t had a booster shot within the past five years or aren’t sure of your vaccination status. Or see your doctor about a tetanus booster for any wound if you haven’t had a booster shot within the past 10 years.
The bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, are found in soil, dust and animal feces. When they enter a deep flesh wound, spores of the bacteria may produce a powerful toxin, tetanospasmin, which acts on various areas of your nervous system. The effect of the toxin on your nerves can cause muscle stiffness and spasms — the major signs of tetanus.
Even if you don’t like needles or doctors, you really should get a tetanus shot. It is great defense from many foreign invaders of your body. I feel better that I got mine.
How long as it been since you got your last Tetanus shot? How was your experience getting your shot?